“With the support of my family, I have entered into a drug treatment facility.” These were the words of UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones, earlier this week. Ahead of his successful title defense against Daniel Cormier, Jones tested positive for traces of cocaine. Still, Jones was allowed to compete in the huge January 3rd matchup with Cormier, because the test was conducted on December 3rd, and was considered to be “out-of-competition” by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)’s standards. The latest transgression for the uber-talented, but troubled, Jones raises many questions/issue:
1. How ‘fake’ is Jon Jones?
We’ve heard the chatter for years. Former training partners like Rashad Evans, colleagues like Daniel Cormier, etc. claiming that the Jon Jones you see in the public is a far cry from the actual man behind the scenes. Constantly touting the impact of God in his life, through interviews, Tweets, tattoos, and his ring gear, Jones’ lifestyle choices have not reflected it. Philippians 4:13 (tattooed on his chest) says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Apparently, this includes a DUI-induced car crash, in the middle of the night, with two young ladies in the vehicle who are NOT your baby’s momma. Apparently, this includes bullying homosexuals on Instagram, making a comment that a picture of a Swedish male couple was “f*g sh*t,” that the men were “f*g boys,” and that “homosexuality is a sin.” Jones, of course, claimed that his phone was both stolen AND hacked. Apparently, this includes Jones doing his best Roddy Piper eye-poke impersonation every fight. Apparently, this includes calling his opponent a “p*ssy” and threatening to “literally kill” him, when he thought the ESPN cameras were no longer recording. And, apparently, this includes snorting cocaine during a training camp.
The narcissistic Jones’ holier-than-thou shtick has not gelled with his actual lifestyle. Embracing the heel role would be easier for the masses to accept. Putting on a front is, frankly, insulting.
2. Does the UFC really care about its fighters?
The UFC knew it has gold with the Cormier-Jones matchup/feud. After a rough year for the company (chronic injuries, low TUF ratings, dive-bombing PPV numbers), the promotion envisioned the possibility of one million PPV buys for the first time since Weidman-Silva 2.
Nearly two weeks before the fight, the UFC and the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) knew that Jones has tested positive for cocaine. Dana White has claimed that, due to Jones’ contract, the NSAC did not have the power to cancel the January 3rd bout. However, the UFC could have.
The company knew that their cash cow was doing cocaine during the peak time of his training camp, and they had no reservations about sending him into a 25-minute fist fight in a cage. Apparently, the cautionary tale of NBA prospect Len Bias never made it to UFC brass. How can anyone, in good conscience and knowing that cocaine is infamous for causing heart attack deaths, place another human in a situation that would put such strain on the heart?
3. How will the rest of the roster view the UFC’s response to the Jones drama?
Thus far, there has been zero discussion of punishment for Jones’ latest transgression. Abusing drugs, and other illegal activities, are part of the company’s code of conduct. But, instead of any talk of fines, suspensions, stripping titles, etc., the UFC is actually stating how ‘proud’ they are that he is making the choice to enter rehab (which he only seems to be doing in order to appease the public and/or public he popped positive), and new sponsor Reebok is standing behind him as well.
If this were Clay Guida, Ben Rothwell, Matt Mitrione, Brad Tavares, Rick Story, or Jorge Masvidal, would the company support them to the level that they are for Jones? Would Dana White be going on Fox Sports 1 gushing about how ‘proud’ he is of his fighter? Would Reebok applaud their fighter’s courage in the face of adversity, if it were a fighter jerking the curtain on the Fight Pass prelims (now that all fighters are, essentially, sponsored by Reebok due to the new fighter uniform contract)? Absolutely not.
If other fighters are released for similar (or lesser) wrongdoings, will those fighters have any legal recourse to pursue wrongful termination (especially with the negative attention currently on the company, due to the ongoing, multiple class-action antitrust lawsuits)?
4. Is this a bump in the road for the greatest MMA fighter of all time, or are we watching a legend slowly destroy himself?
The red flags, as mentioned earlier, are abundant. The man has, knowingly, made his own choices. He has surrounded himself with ‘Yes’ men and hangers-on. Jon Jones has created this mess. Feel free to root for him, pray for him, or wish him well. However, do not pity him. Jon Jones must choose the ending to his story.